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Original article
Working conditions and absence from work during pregnancy in a cohort of healthcare workers
  1. Rocio Villar1,2,
  2. Laura Serra2,3,
  3. Consol Serra1,2,3,
  4. Fernando G Benavides2,3
  1. 1 Occupational Health Service, Consorci MAR Parc de Salut de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
  2. 2 Center for Research in Occupational Health, IMIM – Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
  3. 3 CIBER of Epidemiology and Public Health, Barcelona, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Rocio Villar, Occupational Health Service, Consorci Parc de Salut MAR de Barcelona, Barcelona 08003, Spain; rvillar{at}


Objectives To assess the relationship between exposure to occupational risk factors during pregnancy and absence from work using two different social benefits.

Method Three working pregnancy trajectories (WPT) were identified in a cohort of 428 pregnant workers from a healthcare institution (period 2010–2014), based on absence days and using cluster analysis. WPT1 included absences mainly covered by sickness absence benefit (32.0% of women), WPT2 included absences covered by pregnancy occupational risk (POR) benefit (28.3%) and WPT3 were pregnant workers with few absences (39.9%). Exposure to occupational risk factors was assessed by experts and association with trajectories was analysed using logistic regression. Relative risks (RR) and their 95% CIs were adjusted for age, type of contract and shift work.

Results WPT2 was associated with exposure to physical (RR=1.86, 95%CI 1.17 to 2.97), safety (RR=2.10, 95%CI 1.61 to 2.73), ergonomic (RR=2.52, 95%CI 1.89 to 3.36) and psychosocial (RR=1.79, 95%CI 1.31 to 2.46) factors, and with exposure level. For physicians, WPT1 was associated with safety risks (RR=3.13, 95%CI 1.22 to 7.99), WPT2 with chemical and ergonomic for administrative/technical support (RR=12.20, 95%CI 1.69 to 88.09; RR=14.09, 95%CI 1.34 to 148.61, respectively), with safety and ergonomic risks for nursing aides (RR=1.84, 95%CI 1.12 to 3.02; RR=3.94, 95% CI 2.38 to 6.53, respectively), and with physical (RR=1.72, 95%CI 1.04 to 2.86), safety (RR=2.21, 95%CI 1.62 to 3.03), ergonomic (RR=2.02, 95%CI 1.44 to 2.86) and psychosocial factors (RR=1.96, 95%CI 1.32 to 2.90) for nurses.

Conclusions Absences from work covered by POR benefit show a consistent relationship with exposure to occupational risks. Sickness absence is the most frequent benefit used by pregnant workers. Current social benefits are apparently used adequately for protecting women from occupational exposures. Future studies are needed to clarify this further.

  • maternity leave
  • pregnancy
  • occupational risk factors
  • pregnancy occupational risk benefit
  • sickness absence
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  • Contributors All the authors conceived the study and contributed to its design. RV: carried out the data collection and its interpretation, reviewed the scientific literature and drafted the first version of the article; responsible that all aspects that make up the manuscript have been reviewed, discussed and agreed between the authors; on behalf of the rest of authors, guarantees the accuracy, transparency and honesty of the data and information contained in the study, that no relevant information has been omitted and that all discrepancies between authors have been adequately resolved and described. LS: performed the statistical analysis and, together with CS and FGB, made a critical review of the manuscript with important contributions and approved its final version for publication.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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